Skip to content

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Font Size

Serene Branson Migraine: Your Questions Answered

Neurologist Richard B. Lipton, MD, answers questions about CBS reporter’s atypical migraine.
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Television reporter Serene Branson’s on-air stroke scare following the Grammy Awards turned out not to be a stroke at all. Instead, a migraine was to blame for her slurred speech during the live report.

Footage of that report spread quickly on the Internet, and, for our readers, it raised many questions about migraines: what they are, what causes them, what happens when they occur.

Most migraines do not cause symptoms like what Branson experienced. That makes her migraine "atypical," meaning it was an unusual migraine.

Richard B. Lipton, MD, professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and director of the Montefiore Headache Center, responds by email to WebMD readers' questions. Lipton did not treat Branson.

What kind of migraine did Serene Branson have?

"She had migraine with aura, specifically migraine with aphasic aura," Lipton says. "Aphasia" means difficulty speaking (which Branson had), reading, or understanding language.

"The term 'complicated migraine' is an older term that is used to refer to auras that are either long-lasting or nonvisual," Lipton says.

Are there warning signs before you have a migraine?

"Of the 35 million Americans with migraine (18% of women and 6% of men have it), about 60% have premonitory features or prodromes. These are changes in mood or behavior that precede headache onset by hours," Lipton says.

"Common prodromes include irritability, sad mood, food cravings, difficulty sleeping, thirst, and hunger. Auras are also a kind of warning. Auras occur in 20% of migraine sufferers and consistent of neurologic symptoms preceding pain onset by 5 to 60 minutes, typically."

Is there lasting damage from this type of migraine?

"Aura is usually fully reversible," Lipton says. "On the rarest of occasions the aura may never go away, leading to brain damage."

What should you do if you see someone experiencing these kinds of symptoms? Should you assume it’s a stroke and get them to the hospital?

"For the first episode of weakness or language difficulty, going to the hospital is the right thing to do," Lipton says. "For typical aura or recurrent episodes, medical attention is not necessary.”

Are tingling/prickly sensations a symptom?

"Tingling and numbness can be symptoms of what is called sensory aura," Lipton says.

Is stress a contributing factor? What are the triggers for migraines? Do different types have different triggers?

"In people who have migraine, in some situations the chances of having an attack increase in certain circumstances. For example, drinking red wine, eating chocolate, falling barometric pressure are all triggers," Lipton says.

"Stress and relaxation after stress are also triggers in some people. Identifying and learning to avoid triggers are a common strategy in migraine management. Triggers differ markedly from one person to the next. [It's] best to learn to identify and avoid the triggers that matter for you and not everyone else."

Today on WebMD

woman receiving acupuncture
14 alternative methods for migraine relief.
woman with migraine
Get the truth about migraines.
 
headache in the bedroom
Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
desert heat
12 surprising headache triggers.
 
woman with migraine
Quiz
drinking coffee
Article
 
Migraines Headaches Basics
Article
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
 
young woman with migraine
Articles
spraying perfume
Article
 
man with a headache
Article
headache in the bedroom
Article
 

Special Sections